In the old days, a camera was launched, every feature was in place and you could buy it that day (probably). Now we live in a world of development announcements, launches of cameras you can’t buy yet, ‘unexpected demand’… and firmware updates.
Now firmware updates are a good thing. They fix features that are broken, they add features that weren’t there before and sometimes they open up whole new possibilities you didn’t expect.
We’ve seen a slew of firmware updates for HDMI output to the Atomos Ninja V, for example, for a whole range of cameras from different brands, which have dramatically increased their professional video potential.
Fujifilm has been very good at issuing firmware updates for older models to bring them closer to newer ones in performance and extending their useful life.
But selling a camera on features it’s going to have in the future? Really?
So yes, we are taking a pop at the Nikon Z9. This camera has absolutely spellbinding specs. Unfortunately, some of them lie in the future. If you buy the Z9 today (uh yeah, good luck with that), it can’t do everything that’s earned it those headlines.
Specifically, that amazing 8K 60p video capture won’t actually be possible until a firmware update coming “in 2022”. We can hardly wait for the Z9’s 12-bit in-camera ProRes RAW HQ, either. Unfortunately, we’ll have to.
The Nikon Z9 is a pretty amazing camera right now, but not as amazing as it’s going to be. Hmm.
The Z9 is not the only high-profile culprit. To quote from our DJI Mavic 3 review:
“The big camera brands have all done it, and now DJI (who can reasonably be counted in that company) are doing it too… selling a product with a set of features promised as a firmware patch. For the Mavic 3, we’re expecting ActiveTrack 5.0 as part of a 22 January 2022 update."
DJI's ActiveTrack system is central to its remarkable automated flight controls and version 5.0 will be the best yet. When it arrives. The Mavic 3 is here, ActiveTrack 5.0 is not.
Even the mighty Hasselblad is guilty. The X1D II 50c was sold as a camera with video recording. Except that it didn’t do anything of the sort until Hasselblad pushed out a firmware update.
Firmware is not the problem
Firmware updates are great. They fix things, add things and sometimes make an older camera useful for a whole lot longer.
But future features based on firmware updates are a new thing. It means a maker gets all the glory (and the sales) now ahead of actually doing the thing that’s been promised.
We’ve no doubt that all the features promised for the Z9 and Mavic 3 will arrive, but having to wait is not great. We wouldn’t necessarily have shot any video with the X1D II, but if the feature was there it should have worked from the start.
So we don't think firmware updates are the problem. It's launching cameras that aren't finished yet that's bugging us.